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What’s Cooking Wednesday: A Commander-in-Chef’s Recipe for Vegetable Soup

President Eisenhower cooking for friends at a cookout at Camp David, 8/14/1960 (67-381-2, Eisenhower Library)

The only five-star general ever to be elected President of the United States, Dwight Eisenhower was a man of many accomplishments. That is why it should come as no surprise that Ike was a leader in the kitchen as well.

Throughout his Presidency, Eisenhower used the kitchen on the third floor of the White House to prepare his own soups and stews. A cookbook in the Eisenhower Presidential Library includes detailed recipes for old-fashioned beef stew, Mexican chili, and vegetable soup.

Since the 34th President was particularly fond of vegetable soup, his personal recipe can be found on the library’s web site.

According to the Eisenhower recipe, a good beef soup bone and a couple of pounds of beef or mutton are essential for flavoring. All of the meat should be placed in a kettle along with five quarts of water. It is important at this point to add a teaspoon of salt, a dash of black pepper, and some chopped garlic or onion. Once these instructions have been followed, the soup should be left to boil until the meat literally falls off of the bone.

Next, the kettle and stock should be placed in a very cool setting all night and until you are ready to make your soup the next … [ Read all ]

The Berlin Wall, now a vital piece of history

President Bush is presented with a piece of the Berlin Wall by West German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher in the Oval Office, 11/21/1989 (Bush Library, ARC 186404)

Americans often associate the month of August with family vacations and the summer heat, but that was not the case in 1961. Fifty years ago this month, a Cold War chill filled the air as construction began on the Berlin Wall.

After the end of World War II, the United States, Great Britain, France, and the Soviet Union each occupied a piece of postwar Germany. The four powers intended to jointly govern through the Allied Control Council until the country could be reunified under one government. But as relations between the West and the Soviet Union deteriorated in the late 1940s, Germany became a central part of the Cold War.

In 1949, the the three western zones merged to form the Federal Republic of Germany, and the Soviet Union responded by establishing the German Democratic Republic. Although the capital city of Berlin was located within Soviet-controlled East Germany, it remained divided as a multinational area.

Between 1949 and 1961, millions of East Germans defected from the German Democratic Republic by crossing into West Berlin. The mass exodus of young, well-educated individuals—which led to both economic stagnation and political turmoil—compelled Communist leaders to refortify East Germany’s borders.

On August 21,

[ Read all ]

Facial Hair Friday: From Russia With Love

Czar Alexander II of Russia, ca. 1860-1865 (ARC 526175)

When Russia sold the Alaska territory to the United States in 1867, Czar Alexander II did not take part in the negotiations. Could it be that he did not want to take time away from meticulously manicuring his royal mustache?

Czar Alexander II was a true man of the era, sporting mutton chops along with a full mustache. He would have had no problem fitting in with the negotiators of the Alaska purchase.

Americans Robert S. Chew, William Hunter, and Frederick W. Seward all brought a unique style of beard to the bargaining table. Secretary of State William H. Seward was one of the few renegades of the American contingent, preferring to remain clean shaven.

Although even Moscow’s top diplomats could not fill the mutton chops of a monarch, the Russian delegation made a manful attempt, with envoy Eduard de Stoeckl emulating the Czar’s handlebar mustache and plush sideburns.

When the war of the whiskers finally concluded, the two sides reached an agreement. On August 1, 1868, the United States wrote de Stoeckl a check for more than 586,000 square miles in the Alaska territory for $7.2 million.

At the time, the deal was with disapproval from some, who called the enormous piece of land “Seward’s Folly.” But in 1896, the discovery of gold made the recently acquired district far more … [ Read all ]

Patriotic posters and the debt ceiling

World War I Liberty Loan poster, ARC 512633

As the calendar turns to August and the summer heat sets in, no topic is hotter than the debt ceiling.

Congress has voted to increase the debt limit more than 100 times since it was first established. How did this get started? Part of the answer is in these nearly century-old posters.

To raise money for the costs of World War I, the Federal Government began issuing war bonds. When the first round was not as successful as hoped, artists were commissioned to make more compelling posters, and famous actors encouraged citizens to buy them. Purchasing war bonds came to be seen as a patriotic duty, and several more sets were issued during the war.

With the passage of the Second Liberty Bond Act in 1917, the Department of the Treasury began issuing long-term bonds in order to minimize the government’s interest costs. As a means of managing these new obligations, the legislation enacted a statutory limit on federal debt.

Liberty Loan poster, ARC 512718

Legislation passed over the next two decades created similar limits for other types of government-issued debt, including the bills and the notes issued by the Treasury.

By 1939, Congress eliminated these separate limits and established one aggregate debt limit. The nation’s cumulative debt at the time was $40.4 billion, approximately 10% below the … [ Read all ]

The Taxman Cometh: U.S. v. Alphonse Capone

Al Capone's Guilty Verdict, 10/17/1931 - 10/17/1931 (Record Group 21, National Archives at Chicago; ARC 628966)

Al Capone—the quintessential American gangster—headed the nation’s most notorious organized crime syndicate for more than a decade during Prohibition.

Through smuggling, bootlegging, and a variety of other criminal operations, his “Chicago Outfit” was able to dominate America’s illegal liquor trade throughout the 1920s. But did you know that Al Capone was never convicted of violating the National Prohibition Act?

In 1931, Capone was indicted for income tax evasion for 1925-1929. Despite his immense wealth, he had never paid taxes or purchased any assets in his own name.

So when the Internal Revenue Service’s Special Intelligence Unit uncovered cash receipts from a gambling operation linked to Capone, the evidence served as the foundation for a Federal case. The prosecution charged that he owed over $200,000 in unpaid taxes stemming from gambling profits.

Unable to strike a plea bargain with prosecutors, Capone attempted to bribe jury members. The presiding judge, however, responded by quietly changing the jury panel prior to the trial.

On October 18, 1931, Capone was found guilty on five counts of tax evasion. A month later he was sentenced to 11 years in Federal prison, fined $50,000, charged $7,692 for court costs, and ordered to pay his back taxes plus interest.

Following seven and a half years in … [ Read all ]